How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

Don Tamminga

How many schools should I apply to?

That depends...generally the less sure you are of what you want to do and where you want to go, the more schools you should apply to. I encourage students to create a list of a couple of reach colleges which they may or may not be accepted into, four target colleges which they would be happy to go to and would meet their needs and they likely would be accepted to and the a coouple colleges as a back up plan whcih they know they can get into if all else fails.

Robin Farris

Safety, Good Chance or reach....How many should a student apply to?

I typically ask students to apply to three reach, three good chance and two to three safety schools, one of which should be a financial, just in case their financial aid package doesn't meet their needs

Leigh Spence

Not 31!

I recommend that students not apply to more than 10 colleges at the very most and three to five is a very manageable number. I always suggest applying to a safety school (one the student knows he/she can get in), a reach school (one that he/she is uncertain they can get in) and a dream school (the "if-all-the-planets-are-in-alignment" school.) I once had a student apply to 31 colleges and that was WAY too many!

kati swanson
Counselor TMCC HS

Limit your college applications to 5

Once the application phase of the college admissions process has started students should have already completed their research of prospective colleges. Students should have narrowed their college choices down to their first choice school plus several second choices and a safety school. A safety school is the school to which a student is confident of being admitted. Applying to many schools without thoroughly researching them will not help a student decide on the best college fit.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

How many schools should I apply to?

It is always best to apply to six schools. Two schools that are considered "reach" or "highly competitive" schools for you, two schools that are "moderately competitive" or your GPA and test scores are where their ranges are, and two "safety" or "fallback" schools that your GPA and tests scores are above what they are looking for. It should be a flexible list that fits your GPA and test score ranges.

Esther Walling

How many is too many?

When you begin to apply to colleges hopefully you've already done your homework and researched the ones that have what you're interested in. No use applying to a big name school if they don't offer the major you want. Start with a list of about 30 that fit your requirements. You can use online sources like College Board and ACT to narrow down your choices by categories. If you have the chance to visit the ones on your list, do so. Look at your qualifications, talk to representatives, alumni, professors, sit in on classes. Use virtual tours if you can't visit. All this will narrow down your list. A good number to apply to is around 10 to 15 which include some reaches (highly selective schools), some reasonable stretches (ones that you have a really good shot at) and some sure things which could even include community colleges. That should give you a manageable number to work with and compare. Good luck with your search!


Number of schools

A reasonable number of schools you should apply to is 4-6.

Tiffany Schweickert

How many schools should I apply to?

Two to three

Nancy Caine
Director of College Counseling St. Augustine High School

Nancy Caine

The number of schools you apply to often depends on what you are looking for in a college. The usual advice is to apply to at least one college you know you can get in and afford, two-three colleges where your profile fits their criteria very well, and one or two schools that look like "reasonable reaches". Sometimes you may be limited by your own finances and cannot apply to so many schools. On the other hand, with so many colleges offering free applications, you may actually be able to extend your quest and apply to more. Students looking for money often need to apply more broadly, and sometimes those looking for sports opportunities need to do so as well. At any rate, limiting yourself to no more than ten seems to be a good suggestion, and pervents too much anguish in the spring when you have to make a decision on one school.

Patricia Saddle
Owner The College Planning Center LLC

How many schools should I apply to?